The Infernal Ghoul

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Standing in the long corridor, Lilith casts a spell and creates a number of semi tangible, visible magical orbs. She sends one of the prying eyes into the cave. It returns shortly to her hand, and in her mind the cleric sees headstones, two mounds of bodies with their belongings intact, armor and weapons. It seems to be a lair. Then the images move towards a very ugly being; a dark goblin or a ghoul. Its battered robe ends in sharp claws and a long tongue protrudes from its mouth. The creature looks extraplanar -maybe undead- and is heavily muscled. Lilith suddenly loses sight of the creature when it jumps from view. The prying eye, its task done, disappears.

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The cleric sends in another eye with the assignment to look out for the monster, and soon it returns, depicting that the ghoul is hiding high up in the stalactites! She gathers her siblings close and, calling out to the Spider Queen, buffs them with three spells. The effect is immediately noticeable: they feel stronger, have a stronger conviction and feel more protected.

A bunch of skeletons rattles near, and Jharrath unleashes a fireball in their midst. A nice explosion destroys five skeletons and anything of value they might have carried on their bodies. When the fire dies out, Phaedra charges down the hallway and damages a skeleton with her spiked chain. Five more stand up and attack the scout. Alvra steps forward and readies for action, but Lilith rebukes the undead. Within sixty feet all flee or cower in fear. Quickly she commands them to attack their master… but since she’s their new master… “Stupid creatures”, she mutters, and crushes bones with her flail.

Suddenly an energy ball streaks towards the Xaniqos, crackling with blue-black substance. The ball expands and Jharrath recognizes it as the evocation chaos hammer. When the chaos hammer hits, the only one who is temporarily affected is the wizard, who stayed behind. He casts darkness behind him and starts moving towards Alvra and Lilith.

Meanwhile Phaedra is battling the skeletons, aided by Alvra. Lilith gives the undead a new command and orders them to go to the master of the cave, but before they can abide, the ghoul appears -seemingly out of nowhere- next to the inadequately protected wizard. Its claw with long sharp nails lashes out and rakes into Jharrath’s flesh. The wizard is paralyzed and the smell of sulfur and soot fills the air. All his magical protection is gone. “I’m saving most of you for later,” the ghoul telepathically transmits to Jharrath, “but for now, just a bite…” Its teeth sink into the drow’s shoulder and start chewing.

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The skeletons, now firmly under command of Lilith, start moving towards the ghoul. The cleric looks up and sees the ghoul, chewing on her brother. She calls upon her deity and sends forth a bolt of cold darkness from her left hand. Overwhelmed by the evil charge of the darkbolt, the beast is momentarily stunned.

Alvra, our foolish brother is being eaten alive! Hurry!

No longer under the ghoul’s influence, Jharrath comes to his senses and soon five mirror images appear next to him, mirroring his every move. Phaedra hears her sister’s call. She steps back and kills the last bone creature near her, then walks back towards Alvra. Together they see six Jharraths, very sick and heavily wounded. Blood oozes from multiple bite wounds, and shards of flesh dangle from his shoulder.

“What’s happening?”, the fighter yells to Lilith, readying for a charge. “Watch out. Ghoul!”, is her reply. As if on cue, the monster shakes off the cleric’s spell. Lilith’s second darkbolt misses, but her flame strike hits the target. Jharrath aids by summoning an earth element, which starts to grapple the ghoulish fiend. The opponents battle back and forth, and the drow tensely watch the fight when suddenly… they disappear. The ghoul has taken the elemental to another plane by shadow walk!

Phaedra takes a defensive stance, waiting for the monster to reappear; Alvra and Lilith ready their weapons. The wizard holds a Kelgore’s firebolt at his command. The siblings are on high alert, but minutes pass and nothing happens. The scout checks out the cave and sees corpses of gnolls, a drow female and a bugbear. Their equipment is near, and Phaedra notices a  large javelin and two black gloves, the former owner’s hands still in them. The items look very good. She’s about to turn around, when she feels a foul presence. A filthy claw rakes through her flesh. She steps back, counterattacks and hits the fiend with a burst of light. The light seems to have no effect though.

Lilith cautiously searches the corridor and draws nearer to the entrance of the cave, a darkbolt sizzling over her hand. Her brothers follow her.

The ghoul takes a step forward and his tongue lashes out, but the drow elf disappears and becomes visible a bit further away. Phaedra calls out to her siblings, and the cleric rushes forward towards the opening. Her dark bolts have dissipated, so she takes out her flail. A large earth elemental appears next to the ghoul, summoned by Jharrath. It grapples the ghoul in close combat, while Phaedra makes a full retreat and runs for the corridor. Alvra stands shoulder to shoulder with Lilith, protecting his mistress. He notices how the ghoul moves without a sound, a real predator.

Their opponent touches the big elemental and again they disappear. Jharrath moves aside to make room for the fighter. Suddenly the beast reappears, surprising Alvra. Its attack hits in full force, and immediately the drow male is paralyzed. His magical defenses and buffs are gone. Again the wizard summons an earth elemental, and it hits the ghoul. When Lilith furiously attacks the beast too, she fumbles, and in stead, the beast hits her. She’s paralyzed as well!

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Jharrath hurls the Kelgore’s firebolt and a shard of red-hot rock streaks through the air, a nimbus of arcane energy crackles around it. It’s a hit. Phaedra looks at the ghoul -nimble and strong- and moves towards it. As her attack fails, the ghoul has no difficulty stepping towards Alvra. It drains energy from the fighter and hacks at him with its claws. Alvra lights go out, and he goes down hard.

While the monster is gloating over its victory, the medium earth elemental bull rushes the ghoul backwards. Quickly Lilith focuses her will and fully heals her fighter brother. Alvra regains consciousness, winks at his mistress and then attacks the ghoul from the ground with his short sword. There is no time or strength left in Alvra to get up. Another Kelgore’s firebolt hits the ghoul, while the scout tumbles through. Again she attacks, but due to the high natural armor and high dexterity, she misses.

The ghoul, bleeding and battered, is now attacked simultaneously from four sides. A grimace distorts its face. It looks around, assesses the situation and, with a mighty jump, scampers away.

The Xaniqos look at each other, panting and dripping blood. The cleric calls her siblings close into a healing circle, with special care for the wizard. When they catch their breath, the fighter and scout set out to investigate the cave. Phaedra a chainmail, shield, cloak and leather armor, all magical, and a sharp dagger. Alvra checks out the items that Phaedra noticed earlier. The javelin is of excellent quality, the head formed like an electric bolt. The black gloves are well made and have a magical aura. He shows the javelin to Lilith, who lets Alvra keep the weapon. She tells the wizard to identify the gloves.

But it will take a long time to…

I said, immediately!

As you wish.

Jharrath bows slightly and prepares his spell. After an hour he reports:

These are gloves of lightning, mistress. Three times a day they can be used in a ranged attack.

They move away from the smelly cave and resume their journey. The terrain climbs slowly, ever upward, and after a long while their path takes a sharp turn. The scout peeks around the corner, very silent, and sees four statues with spiders. She takes a closer look and realizes they are back at the portal! Their relief is short-lived though, when they hear footsteps. Someone’s coming! A familiar hairy face greets them: the draegloth!

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Laergath, what are you doing here?!,

Phaedra exclaims. His pelt is splattered with blood. With a wicked smile, the half demon – half drow replies.

We almost gave up hope and thought you would not come back. Lady Thandysha has sent me to find you. Of all search parties, none have returned. And don’t worry: this blood is not mine. In my search I came upon some others, but they are not looting anymore.

His grin is terrible to witness, the teeth pointed and still red.

I guess your reward will be great. Or your punishment. Come now, I will escort you back to town, because your mother can wait no longer. We have to be careful though. Scouting parties of House Shi’quos and others are still walking around.  House Vae has had no news from their scouts either. And Thorntor is collecting a big army. We have to evade them.

The draegloth accompanies them safely back to Erelhei-Cinlu. His manoeuvres to evade the other searching parties are successful, though it takes them several days to return.

 

 

The Fang of Lolth

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The tunnel echoes with their footsteps, while the drow make their way deeper into the maze of the Underdark. At some point they realize something or someone else is near! Babbling and scornful chuckling reverberates from an alcove up ahead. Phaedra sneaks closer to check it out, when suddenly a female voice calls out:

Don’t try to hide, I can see you!

Phaedra looks inside the small cave and strains her eyes, but sees only old webs, stalagmites and spider nests. Then a figure in black drops from the ceiling and lands ten feet away.

Don’t make funny moves and lay down your weapons!

Her voice sounds rusty and is of an irritating level, like she’s not used to talking. The others draw near. “Who are you,” Lilith asks.

I’ve been watching you fight those nasty followers of the Lady of the Dead. They don’t worship Lolth like I do.

The woman looks humanoid, but has very long arms. It is a drow, dark, with wild hair and multifaceted eyes. Her fingers are also long, and her clothes adapt to the background. The drow in black is very nervous and she keeps everyone in sight, her eyes darting everywhere.

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Lilith knows that some priestesses go very far in their devotion to Lolth, and suspects this is one of the Fangs of Lolth. These devotees slowly transform into a spider through their worship.

I used to live in Maerimydra, when the evil priestesses of Kiaransalee banished me. So I came here. But I’m sure this is a test: in the end the Spider Queen will reward us!

The Xaniqos cleric quickly agrees, and prompts her to continue.

I have been to Szith Morcane many times. There are other entrances, entrances that are not guarded. I won’t go up with you, but I can tell you where they are. There are hundreds of drow in the city. If you follow this corridor, it will split up eventually. To the right are very hungry driders. And if you go to the left, there’s a very large cave with undead vermin. Priestesses have been transforming them for Szith Morcane. I would recommend you go the left. After that, the corridor will lead you to the upper city of Szith Morcane. It is a very filthy place, and something is guarding it. Something foul! There are no safe places around here; even this tunnel is being patrolled often.

The dark lady starts to get agitated when the siblings move too close to her backpack, so they keep a healthy distance. When no further information can be gained, Lilith starts praying to her deity,  and the woman calms down.

Notwithstanding the ever present threat of the Kiaransalee, the Xaniqos siblings decide to rest, too tired to move on. Phaedra keeps watch. After a few hours, the Fang picks up her backpack and says goodbye, whispering “May the Spider Queen give you strength to defeat your enemies.” “Perhaps we’ll meet again,” Phaedra replies. The dark drow disappears into the dark. The scout wakes up Alvra and settles down for a bit of sleep herself.

When the others wake, the Fang of Lolth is gone. The spell casters feel rested and together they follow the meandering corridor of the Underdark. Their scout is in the lead, constantly checking her surroundings, but all is peaceful. Finally they come upon a split in the road, where they take the left fork.

It is opening into a very wide passage. The sound of many scurrying feet ripples through the air, and they are closing in fast. Stalagmites and stalactites obscure their view. The wizard summons three medium earth elementals, while Lilith holds her holy symbol aloft and casts a spell. A silvery radiance dances from her hands and leaps over all party members, strengthening them. The cleric takes her flail in her hand, while Alvra draws his sword.

No less than twenty medium sized spiders come rushing forward! Phaedra activates spiderclimb and scrambles up the wall. One of the earth elementals attacks the passing spiders and smashes its fist down. The smell of decay fills the air and a white fluid seeps from the carcasses. Lilith’s flail also successfully finds a target. Then her sister calls out.

These are only the forerunners; behind them is a huge spider with a gigantic thick belly. Green slime oozes in its wake. Smaller spiders are originating from the larger beast!

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The cleric groans. She recognizes it as a husk spider, an undead creature that is formed from the carapaces of monstrous spiders and animated by dark magic. The priestesses of Lolth are known to create the same monsters.

The husk spider lumbers towards the earth elementals and attacks with its mandibles. It drains the energy from one of the elementals. As a result, it gets even stronger!

The scout enters the cave climbing and looks around. She sees no other creatures at the moment, so she makes her way to a niche, fifteen feet long, where she can stand on. While Jarrath activates his boots and teleports back to safety, Lilith rebukes the smaller spiders: eleven spiders cower in fear and are unable to attack. Her fighter brother jumps in and starts slaughtering them.

The huge spider charges one of the earth elementals, and while they are thus engaged, the cleric releases a flame strike on their asses. Severely wounded, the arachnid pulls back behind the stalagmites. Jharrath, protected my mage armor, encourages the remaining elementals to keep on killing the rest of the smaller spiders. They seem to have a good time.

From her high perch, the scout observes how the husk spider escapes and climbs down. It ran that way, she signs to the others. Together they slowly make their way into the giant cave and search the corner where the arachnid is hiding. Jharrath moves his elementals forward, while Lilith baths the corner in faerie fire. There’s no spider though.

Suddenly the beast attacks from above, charging Alvra with a bite attack. Phaedra tumbles back and slips, but manages to keep her distance. Quickly she takes out her spiked chain. With a handful of ashes, the wizard shoots a Kellgore’s fire bolt, and Lilith projects a blast of light from her open palm, straight into the beast’s torso. The husk spider is wobbling on it’s eight legs. Alvra moves in for the kill, and with three powerful strikes, the beast is on its back. The cleric takes a good look at the carcass. “It’s a widow maker,” she says, “very aggressive beasts.”

When Phaedra searches the cave, she finds a dead drider and his short sword, which looks valuable enough to take with them. When they move forward again, the cave ends in a narrow corridor. They keep left and walk on. After a long journey through empty caves and ditto walkways, they come upon another large cave. This one smells dreadfully.

The scout moves ahead and then stops. In the middle of the room there’s a mount of bodies in various degrees of decomposition. Some are down to bare skeletons. And something has been eating them!

 

Szith Morcane

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Wary of the shadow spider, the Xaniqos continue their way over the unstable spider strands. Phaedra carefully picks a route through the sticky maze, while the others follow in her footsteps. When she hears unfamiliar voices, the scout urges the others to stay quiet. Lilith takes a moment to examine their surroundings and spots a plateau. It seems to be another entrance in the wall opposite the thoroughly destroyed former balcony, where smoke still smolders – the result of Jharrath’s devastating fireball. Phaedra crawls upwards towards the damaged ledge and takes a quick peek. The tunnel seems empty at first, but then something moves. What in Lolth’s name… Quickly she regroups with the others and signals them to keep ready.

Hideous skinless creatures appear at the rim of the ledge. With muscles stretched taut over skeleton and fluids oozing from their bodies, they start to climb down the twenty feet drop. “Quth-maren,” the cleric exclaims, “undead skinned drow. Be careful of their ooze: it’s acid!”. They turn to face this new threat, when the spider once again jumps into existence.

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The wizard, accompanied by his mirror images, moves forward and climbs the strands, trying to reach a more strategic position. The spider launches a bite attack and its teeth sink into one of the shimmering images of the wizard. Up on the ledge a new opponent appears -an arcane guard- and four magic missiles fly straight into the fray. When they hit, only two of Jharrath’s mirror images remain.

“This fight is well coordinated,” the Xaniqos fighter observes through clenched teeth. No sooner have these words left his lips, than the spider takes advantage of his temporary slip of attention and paralyzes Alvra with a well-placed bite. Phaedra’s counterattack bounces off the spider’s hide, and the arachnid grapples her.

Lilith calls upon the Spider Queen to rebuke the undead warriors, but before she can activate that ability, one of the undead rests his horrifying gaze upon her and the normally strong willed fighter feels herself overcome with fear. A second undead tries to slice her open with his filthy claws, but can’t penetrate her armor.

From the side, the wizard launches an arch of lighting, which ravages the undead and wounds them heavily with electricity. Through the cleric’s spell resistance, she’s able to withstand the lightning arch; and Alvra is safe as well. Next, Jharrath takes out a candle and summons three earth elementals near the spider. Their combined weight is too much for the spider webs and they slowly topple out of sight, leaving a huge hole in the webbings. The spider is able to keep its footings, but has to release the scout in the process. Immediately, Phaedra lashes out and hits the eight-legged animal. When another round of the arcane guard’s magic missiles slams into the wizard, his last mirror image disappears.

“The only way you can enter Szith Morcane is either dead or as slaves!” A female voice rings out over the grunts and growls of the combatants. Upon the ledge, the Xaniqos see a female, wearing the symbol of a leering skull; it must be one of the Kiaransalee clerics, worshipers of the Lady of the Dead.

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Strengthened by the proximity of his mistress, the flayed creature makes another clawed attack on Lilith, once again keeping his horrifying gaze on her. The wounds of the oozing creature slowly begin to heal. They have to get out of there! Phaedra tumbles past the shadow spider -hitting it hard- and touches the still immobile Alvra on landing. Jharrath casts darkness on himself and moves towards the plateau Lilith spotted earlier. He sees a deserted corridor and dashes into it. “Don’t run, you’ll make a perfect slave!” The mocking voice of the Kiaransalee cleric follows him, as well as a crossbow bolt. The enchantment instantly seizes the wizard, leaving him paralyzed. There’s only one mobile Xaniqos drow left!

Phaedra teleports and takes Alvra with her, slowly dragging him towards the plateau where Jharrath is standing still. In the blink of an eye, three more drow scouts mirror her movements. She maintains her connection to Alvra, leading him further and further from the battlefield. Jharrath struggles and breaks the enchantment, casting darkness to hide their actions and whereabouts.

A frustrated shout sounds through the battle scene. The Kiaransalee cleric is not happy to see her prey escape and calls upon her Goddess. And the Lady of the Dead answers: a roaring flamestrike slams into the middle of the three, or rather six, siblings, but searing only Jharrath. Phaedra pushes the fighter into the corridor, and then steps back onto the webs.

The Xaniqos cleric manages to break the will of the glaring Quth-maren. Shaking her head clear of the last remnants of the undead’s influence, she tries to dodge the slashes of one, while the other spits acid blood at her. It splashes against the stone and spider strands, where it mingles with Lilith’s blood. Looking up, she sees the arcane guard drawing near. In full retreat she follows her brothers and sister, while being attacked by the undead and the guard over and over again.

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When Alvra comes to, he’s face down in a dark tunnel. His brother is heavily wounded, and both his sisters are battling on the web strands, while trying to flee to the relatively safety of the corridor. Another necromancer spell hits his eldest sister. Phaedra is driving the guard mad by teleporting away constantly when he comes too close. The fighter takes out his javelin and hurls it towards the Kiaransalee cleric on the other side of the crevice. Caught up in her spell casting, the necromancer is surprised by the attack. She pays in blood.

Summoned from another plane by the wizard, a large earth elemental appears and tries to grapple the arcane guard. As planned, its weight proves to be too much though, and both start falling through the net. The guard manages to hold on and climbs back up. In all consternation the spider advances on Lilith and paralyzes her with a bite of its poisonous fangs.

Covered in darkness, Phaedra sets out to retrieve the immobile cleric. Under attack by the quth-marens, she starts pushing her sister towards the plateau. Fortunately the undead miss. Alvra doesn’t though, and throws another javelin at the creatures, scoring a hit. Jharrath readies a fireball, waiting for his siblings to clear the webbing. The fighter bull-rushes the quth-marens, but loses his footing and lands on his back. There he continues fighting his opponent, who is stuck in the spider strands. Jharrath casts a spell on the other. Alas it seems to be resistant to fire. The spider removes Phaedra’s mirror images in a double attack. Quickly the scout shoves Lilith back another step. Jharrath lifts his arms and…

“Let them run!” Overseeing the battlefield, the Kiaransalee calls back her allies. “Stop the chase and let the worms run!” The attackers leave, making care to dodge Alvra’s harassing sword.

Limping and bleeding the drow of House Xaniqos manage to escape. Not a good day for the four adventurers. Still they finally managed to find Szith Morcane!

Shadows

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The drow climb through the hatch and descend down the rope ladder, which ends at a platform. A short corridor leads towards a giant chasm, that opens up 30 feet wide. A wind is blowing from down below. The crevice is wrapped up in spider webs, forming a kind of walkway. The web consists of several layers of thick spider ropes. Even the walls have been decorated with the sticky strands. As they look over the edge, they see the lower levels are also layered in spider silk. It is possible to climb the walls, but only for very experienced climbers. Which some of them are not!

After locking the hatch, the siblings gather near the edge. Jharrath uses one of his wands to see if there’s magic at work, but only faint traces of magic linger. Alvra steps onto the webbing, with Lilith close behind. The air currents feel weird. After advancing about 20 feet, the fighter’s foot gets stuck. When they examine the sticky strands, they notice that the webbings glisten in the area where Alvra is trying to get loose. Unfortunately he only manages to get his other foot stuck too. He’s entangled.

People have passed here, so there must be a safe route. The cleric walks back towards the platform, gathers up some dust and small stones and swipes these over the webbings near her brother. The dust clings to the sticky pieces, vaguely showing which way they should not go. When she tries to pull the fighter back to safety, she slips on the treacherous webbing. Now both drow are stuck!

Their siblings move out to help them, but a sudden movement alerts Phaedra to a new danger: in the top right corner she sees a large spider, hiding in the shadows. The beast is green, and has dark eyes which faintly glow red. The shadow spider rushes towards the drow and lashes out with very sharp claws. Phaedra quickly teleports to safety and takes out her spiked chain. When Jharrath is attacked, he uses his boots to zap away. Alvra and Lilith meanwhile try to keep their balance on the treacherous footings. The cleric’s soundburst spell has no effect on the advancing spider, so Alvra casts a globe of darkness.

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Phaedra watches the spider’s silhouette become vague, then disappear in the shadows altogether. With all of her senses alert, she suddenly hears a faint rustling behind her and immediately lashes out with her spiked weapon. The chain connects with something solid and the spider again pulls back into the shadows, narrowly missing the dark bolts that Lilith aims at the beast. Alvra tries to cast faerie fire on the creature, but to no avail. Turning, the spider attacks the wizard, or so it thinks. In stead, one of Jharrath’s six mirror images disappears. The wizard quickly summons a salt mephit to help him fight, and shoots Kellgore’s firebolts into the arachnid.

While the shadow creature is occupied, the drow scout approaches her sister and tries -in vain- to free her. Lilith casts a mass shield of faith to help her siblings out; her boots seem to be glued to the web strands. She then calls upon her deity for darkfire. Alvra manages to pull himself free and carefully steps to the side of the crevice. There he casts dancing lights around the spider’s head and grabs his sword.

With only two of the wizard’s mirror images left, Jharrath’s situation is not looking good. The arachnid fanatically bites and claws. Phaedra counterattacks and hits, but the damage is less severe than expected. A full hit of Lilith’s darkfire also has little to no effect.

A soft whistling alerts the Xaniqos to a new danger: in an aperture, two drow appear. They seem satisfied to watch the fight scene from up above. Their grin quickly changes to horror when a sizzling ball of fire roars towards them. The spell detonates with a low roar and the hostile drow are catapulted. One lands in the web – a charred corpse; the other lies smoldering one floor down. Jharrath puts away the bat guano with a satisfied grin.

Alvra swings his sword at the shadow spider, but misses because of the darkness. The spider immediately lashes out and grapples the fighter, which activates the drow’s special armor. Another round of darkfire soars towards the spider, but the flames don’t harm it. The beast, attacked on all sides, tries to take its prey to the Shadow Plane, but the fighter resists. Lilith quickly heals her heavily wounded brother before the arachnid returns, and then casts Bebelith Blessing on herself. She finally manages to pull herself loose and rushes in to help her sister, who is attacking the beast. Again the shadow spider returns to its plane.

 

The Hidden Dell

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The well-trodden path leads towards the entrance of the cave. It looms ahead, dark and forbidding. The cleric sends forth another eye, directing it into the darkness. When it comes back, it relays the images of a deserted space, with objects piled near the opening.

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The horses have been secured to metal poles outside the cave. To enter, the siblings have to pass them or lure them away. Lilith prepares an enchantment spell, but while they softly debate over the best course of action, the dire beasts get more agitated. The breeze must have carried their smell towards them. They can’t wait any longer. Phaedra moves stealthily closer and stays on the left side of the path, while the wizard chooses the other side, but the horses’ red eyes follow her. Lilith buffs the fighter with spells. His muscles pop up.

One of the horses finally manages to break free and canters straight towards the scout. The cleric immediately releases her spell, but the horse’s willpower is too strong; it doesn’t heed her suggestion. Jharrath summons a large earth elemental and places it right in the path of the charging beast. The elemental hits the horse twice on the head. The dire horse counterattacks and rears up on its hind legs, thrashing the summoned monster, its red eyes flashing. It must have fiendish blood.

Then the second horse breaks its tether and lashes out with its hoof, striking the wizard in the shoulder. Alvra, muscles bulging, draws his sword and slashes at the horse, but he doesn’t do much damage. The skin is too thick. Jharrath uses his boots and moves backwards, where he casts mirror image on himself. Four more wizards appear out of thin air.

Lilith looses a bolt, but it misses its target. Discarding her useless crossbow, she takes out her flail, activates its special ability and charges the horse. She cries out,

Lolth, give me the strength to slay this beast!

but the fiendish horse is not bothered by the extra fire damage. The wizard fires his wand of magic missiles and then summons five small elementals, while Alvra strikes again. This time he focuses and with a mighty swing of his sword, he hurts the fiend good. The small elementals are no match for the black horse. It seems to like fighting, and is trained to kill. The steed bites and kicks, sending two elementals back to their native plane. Lilith activates her rod of grievous wounds, and gets kicked by a massive hoof as reward. With a cry of rage, she focuses her divine power and projects a blast of light from her open palm into the steed’s head. The horse is trembling, exhausted and severely wounded. Then Alvra steps in and with another massive attack beats it to pulp.

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Meanwhile the battle between the first horse and the large earth elemental rages back and forth. The other elementals join the fight, their master following behind. The fighter hurls a javelin towards the horse, followed by a frost breath attack by Lilith. But like the fire, the cold seems to do little to no damage. Jharrath summons a medium sized elemental, that immediately attacks. Alvra grabs his javelin and takes up position next to his sister.Together they attack again, both flanking the dire horse. Alvra hacks and slashes, and finally manages to slay the fiend.

The siblings slowly stand up, quiet returning to the battle field. Lilith heals both herself and her fighter brother, and hands him an extra healing potion. They are bruised and bleeding. Jharrath walks towards the cave: their younger sister seems missing…

Three drow against two horses. Phaedra looks back at her siblings. They seem to be handling the situation well, so she continues towards the cave. She creeps closer and closer, then hides and listens carefully. Taking a quick peek inside, she sees a fairly wide natural cave, artificially widened. She spots the crates, mentioned earlier by the prying eye. The remains of a campfire are cold and abandoned. The scout warily enters the cave. She moves steadily deeper, searching for traps, but finds nothing. The barrels contain food and trading goods from several merchant houses. A prison is built into the wall, the bars in excellent condition, complete with chains and a pit. It is empty. Phaedra checks out the back of the cave. Two bunk beds, a table, chairs and a hatch in the ground. She crouches down.

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… the others walk inside. Alvra examines the empty holding cell; its neck clamps silent witnesses of the people who have been kept there. Searching for her sister, Lilith notices signs, which have been carved in the hatch.

Wait for me, I’ll be back.

She recognizes Phaedra’s signature. While her brother searches for clues near the bunks, she walks back towards the entrance to check out the crates. Like Phaedra discovered earlier, she finds food, silk, probably stolen. The drow decide to sit down and eat while waiting. Lilith takes her dinner over towards the hatch -her flail within reach- and readies for action, while Alvra positions himself on the other side, taking a defensive stance.

Suddenly the hatch opens and Phaedra’s head pops up. In sign language, the cleric asks her sister what she’s found out. The scouts looks businesslike.

I’ve got news!

Circling the Mountain

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Though the Xaniqos have escaped the deadly trap this time, there are still possibly ten to twelve hostile drow on the loose. There is no trace of the fiendish ravens; strategically, the siblings have a good and defensible position, Alvra says. Tired and wary, they decide to spend the night in the pit and wake up feeling slightly better.

Lilith sends out one of her prying eyes to assess their situation. The orb returns to convey images of hills and meadows to the cleric, a landscape where nothing moves except small wildlife. There is no visible threat, there are no other drow. With this knowledge, they set out and head back towards the old watchtower area. The smell of burned flesh still permeates the air from the silo. Phaedra wearily enters the scorched area, and finds the battle scene undisturbed. Many footprints are still visible in the sand, the area is scorched and blood permeates the soil.

pryingeye

Clear tracks lead towards the mountains, deeply imprinted by the weight of heavy armor. They seem to be in a hurry! Another prying eye sets out to scout the area. The drow follow the trail for many hours, but Phaedra’s instinct and scouting skills tell her that they are only two miles as the crow flies from the portal through which they entered the Upper World. The landscape is becoming more and more overgrown with bushes and trees, the ground gets stony. When her sister loses the track, Lilith calls back the prying orb. In their vicinity are many small furry animals, but no houses or settlements; nothing is threatening. One more orb sets out with the specific instructions to search for caves and people, and its search proves successful. There’s a dark space up ahead that could be the entrance they are searching for.

Soon they find themselves on a much used path. Phaedra sees track from creatures that are not know to them; they are wider than those of rothé. As they follow the trail –Phaedra in the lead– the scout hears snorting and ducks behind the nearest tree. Fortunately it seems closer than it is, due to the mountain’s acoustic. Phaedra signals to the others, who have heard nothing unusual over the wood’s natural sounds, whereupon the cleric sends forth another magical orb. When it returns to her hand, it brings news: there are two jet-black red-eyed creatures ahead, waiting in front of an opening in the mountain.

Phaedra sneaks closer, while Jharrath casts his awareness forward, toward the beasts. He gets the impression that these are no natural inhabitants of the forest. They are different, more powerful and bigger, than the draft animal that was harnessed to the chariot in the village. The cleric calls back her sister, whereupon Jharrath shares his findings with the others.

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